Troubleshoot PC Restart Problems - dummies

By Dan Gookin

Two ugly restart issues may plague you and summon your troubleshooting skills. The first is the random restart, which is unexpected. The second is the automatic restart, or re-restart, which is unwanted.

Restarting a computer is a common and often necessary task. Even if you’re a fan of leaving a PC on all the time, you’ll find yourself restarting it every so often for a number of reasons, from installing or updating software to fixing bugs.

Restarting Windows often cures many minor ills.

Fix random restarts

An unexpected restart is a sign of trouble. I’m not talking about the computer requesting a restart — one of those Restart now? type of dialog boxes. Nope. I’m talking about the computer just wandering off into la-la land in a rude and discourteous manner.


A random restart is most likely, though not exclusively, a hardware error. The primary culprit is the power supply:

  • If the power supply lacks the proper wattage to power the PC’s hardware, it randomly restarts or dies. The solution is to replace the power supply with a beefier model.

  • If the power supply is just flaky, it needs replacing anyway.

  • When the power supply’s fan fails to keep the computer cool enough, the PC restarts because of the heat. You can buy a power supply with more fans or install a supplemental fan for your PC.

Other hardware glitches may also cause random restarts, so if the problem isn’t in the power supply, it can be difficult to pinpoint.

Don’t rule out software glitches: Poorly installed and corrupt software can randomly crash a computer. You can use the Windows log files to help determine which programs may be causing random restarts.

Disable automatic restarts

For the sake of troubleshooting, an automatic restart is more of a re-restart. What happens is that the computer restarts and then restarts again. Restart, restart, restart. The problem is that you can configure Windows to automatically restart on an error, in which case the computer ceaselessly restarts and coincidentally drives you mad.

You can choose from a couple of solutions for automatic restarts. The first solution is to disable the feature before you experience the problem. Obey these steps:

  1. Press the Win+Break key combination to summon the System window or System Properties dialog box.

    The Break key is also the Pause key on some keyboards.

  2. Open the Advanced tab in the System Properties dialog box.

    In Windows XP, you just click the tab. In Windows 7 and Vista, click the Advanced System Settings link on the left side of the window. In Windows Vista, you then click the Continue button or type the administrator’s password to continue.

  3. Click the Settings button in the Startup and Recovery area.

  4. Remove the check mark by the item Automatically Restart.

  5. Click OK and close whatever other windows or other dialog boxes linger on the screen.

The second solution is to take advantage of the start-up menu that disables automatic restarts. This solution comes in handy when the restart takes place.